Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust is to proceed with the implementation of an electronic patient record (EPR) from US-based company Epic, more than four years after it selected the firm as its preferred supplier.

Approval to implement the system has now been granted by both NHS Improvement – which has to sign off on any large scale IT investment programme before it can proceed – and by the trust board, which has approved £42m of funding to introduce the EPR.

Work to begin implementing the system will begin on 18 September and it is expected to take around 23 months to complete.  A go-live date has been set for Summer 2020.

RD&E’s board has approved the MY CARE Programme, which includes both the Epic EPR and MyChart, a portal available via an app on clinicians’ smartphones or online.

Key features of the MyChart electronic medical record include: medical history, test results, secure messaging with providers, appointment scheduling and health reminders for overdue health maintenance screenings and wellness visits.

Tracey Cottam, director of transformation and organisational development at the trust, said: “Some of the ways we currently deliver services could be improved and some of the current processes and systems we use consume too much time of our staff and make it harder for them to provide the level of compassionate, personalised care they aspire to.

“We need to find a better way of working that is more effective, and more clinically and financially sustainable for the future. The transformation of our services, enabled by the new technology will give all clinicians a much more comprehensive picture of their patients and their healthcare in a fraction of the time.”

The affordability of the system had previously been highlighted as an issue.  March 2016 board papers revealed the trust and supplier remained locked in discussions.

However, the trust appears to have reached an agreement with NHS Improvement to bridge a rumoured £20m affordability gap.

In a statement on its website, the trust said: “The investment in creating world-class health services and care for our patients has required the RD&E to secure funding of c. £42m with the programme expected to deliver significant quality, capacity releasing and financial benefits – essentially paying for itself over the lifetime of the programme.”

Work to begin implementing the system will begin on 18 September and it is expected to take around 23 months to complete.

RD&E confirmed it will carry out work to prepare staff and patients for the new system.

Since the trust selected Epic as its preferred supplier, the EPR has so far gone live at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as part of its £200 million eHospital programme, and been selected by two others.

Cambridge’s Global Digital Exemplar fast follower trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has also selected Epic as its EPR supplier.  The same system has also been chosen by Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Both are due to go live in 2019

Epic CEO and founder Judy Faulkner said: “We look forward to supporting RD&E on this journey as they take the next step toward implementing their vision of integrated and high-quality care for those they serve.

“Alongside Cambridge University Hospitals, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and University College London Hospitals, RD&E now joins a growing cohort of the United Kingdom’s health information technology leaders who are part of an Epic community where innovation and collaboration are improving patient care.”